9-tank-stick

What do you get when you combine surplus military hardware with a computer interface? In this case, probably the beefiest computer game controller you’ve ever seen made out of an old M1 Abrams training simulation’s turret yoke.

This controller functions as a “twisty yoke,” as featured on the Star Wars arcade game from the 1980s. The yoke rotates like a steering wheel, while the handles are able rotate forwards and backwards as well. When originally obtained, this stick weighed in at an incredible 16 pounds, and looked “lovingly used” from the way it was described. Although it could have been repainted, I think the worn yoke looks great, and was obviously less work.

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Besides the rotational motion, each grip features two trigger switches and a thumb controller for six buttons total. In order to push all these signals to the computer, a Teensy 3.1 development board is used as the interface.  As there were some extra pins available on the Teensy, an external switch box was added for whatever other commands are needed for the game.

Although the stick is now mounted on a heavy-duty monitor stand, I imagine something like this would be treasured by anyone building a custom home arcade system.  You would just have to make sure the MDF is up to holding this monstrosity!

Jeremy Cook

Jeremy Cook

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!


  • Jim Levy

    I so want one of these! In the ’80s, I was a gunner on a tank and used this. In fact, we called them “Star Wars” controls. The thumb bottoms were for a laser range finder, and the triggers were for the main gun or machine gun, depending what was switched on. The grip control was a dead man safety for moving the turret. Where can I get one…?

    • Kevin J

      That’s really cool. Here’s the thread on Reddit from the creator with more nuggets of information and discussion: http://www.reddit.com/r/DIY/comments/2e2z1z/a_pc_joystick_made_from_army_surplus/

      The long of the short, though, is that OP got it from https://www.bpbsurplus.com

    • Ryger

      Ahahaaa… that’s just awesome! I was just thinking about the last time I lazed-and-blazed from them Cadillacs.

      For any non-armor people out there, “Cadillacs” are a nickname for the Gunners Control Yoke on the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank.
      Textron Systems provides the Cadillac Gage gun turret drive & stabilization system (at least they did in the 90’s, no idea if they still do).
      Textron Systems currently is the Marine & Land Division of Cadillac Gage.

      Although I’m not sure if the term “Cadillacs” started with the M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, or if the nickname was used by M60 tankers, or tankers that came before… any tankers out there know?

      Jim you said “Star Wars” controls, but did you ever hear the term “Cadillacs” used in the 80’s?

      • Jim Levy

        Ryger, I’m not sure, but it’s possible. I was a gunner on an M60A3 in the Guard. Cadillacs sounds familiar, but that was a friggen’ long time ago. Looking it up: it looks like the term Cadillacs probably was used on the M60’s as well. Cadillac Gage was the turret system on the M60A3’s, too. I think Star Wars controls came from (surprise) the Star Wars movie and the gun controls on the Millennium Falcon, or it could reference the early 80’s Atari Star Wars arcade game, which had the same configuration.

        • Ryger

          I remember that 80’s Atari Star Wars arcade game.
          We had one in a local corner-market that I monopolized.
          Some years ago I ran across one of those is a junk yard, but didn’t think to pull the yoke off.

      • Dennis Hixson

        Cadillacs was use back in 75 when I was a tanker